Christmas flights to Australia are nearly all fully booked, so unless you have an unlimited income, Christmas Down Under will be out this year.

Christmas flights to Australia are nearly all fully booked, so unless you have an unlimited income, Christmas Down Under will be out this year. But there are plenty of carriers to whisk you away earlier, or in 2005.

The only airlines operating direct services from the UK are British Airways (08708 509850; www.ba.com), Qantas (08457 747767; www.qantas.co.uk), and, from 7 December, Virgin Atlantic (08705 747747; www.virginatlantic.com). A short stop is made to refuel on route. All three fly to Sydney. British Airways and Qantas also fly to Melbourne, and Qantas also goes to Perth.

Scores more airlines operate indirect services to Australia. These include Cathay Pacific (020-8834 8888; www.cathaypacific.com), Emirates (08702 432222; www.emirates.com), Singapore (08706 088886; www.singaporeair.co.uk), Thai Airways (08706 060911; www.thaiairways.co.uk), Air New Zealand (08000 284149; www.airnz.co.uk), Garuda Indonesia (020-7467 8600; www.garuda-indonesia.com), Japan Airlines (08457 747700; www.jal.com) and China Airlines (020-7436 9001; www.chinaairlines.com).

Connections can be made in Hong Kong, Dubai, Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

Offers on international flights are usually available through discount agents such as Trailfinders (020-7938 3939; www.trailfinders.com) and Quest (08704 423542; www.questtravel.com). Trailfinders offers deals to Sydney with Japan Airlines via Tokyo or Osaka for £564 (until 5 December 2004); to Cairns with British Airways or Qantas via Singapore for £608 (until 9 December); and to Perth with Singapore Airlines via Singapore for £561 (valid until 30 November). All flights depart Heathrow. There is currently good availability on all of these.

Quest has offers to Perth with Qantas or British Airways for £549, to Brisbane with Malaysia Airlines for £589 and to Adelaide with Malaysia Airlines for £595. All offers must be booked by 15 November; all flights depart from Heathrow apart from Adelaide, which also departs from Manchester.

By far the easiest way to get around the country is to fly. Once in Australia, the two main carriers operating domestic flights are Qantas (08457 747767; www.qantas.com.au) and Virgin Blue (00 61 7 3295 2296; www.virginblue.com.au). Both connect most major towns and cities and offer flight passes, such as the Qantas Boomerang Pass (from £65).

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